In a truly historic victory, Gustavo Petro and Francia Márquez have won the presidential elections in Colombia. The Petro-Márquez ticket will form Colombia’s first-ever progressive administration when it takes office Aug. 7: they have promised to battle widespread inequality in the country—in particular the nation’s poverty rates which are at 40%—and to push the government to take control of the economy, to protect the rights of women and LGBTQ people, and to fight against climate change.
“This government which will begin on August 7 is a government of life,” Gustavo Petro asserted during his victory speech. “It is a government that wants to establish Colombia as a global power that promotes life. If we want to synthesize in three phrases what the government of life consists of, it is peace and social and environmental justice.”
Traditionally, Colombians have elected right-wing politicians who have aligned their country with the U.S.’s “war on drugs” agenda, which meant U.S. dollars helped fund the Colombian militaries’ fight against left-wing guerrillas. That agenda tended to impoverish large swaths of the population and quite often led to the endangerment of Black and Indigenous activists who worked to secure their communities in long-neglected areas of the nation.
This year, it was the strong turnout of Black and Indigenous voters in states along Colombia’s Caribbean and Pacific coasts who made the difference in the presidential vote. Afro Colombians are up to 90% of the population along Colombia’s Pacific coast and the Petro-Márquez ticket won states in this area resoundingly: they took Chocó with 83% of the vote, in Nariño they received 82%, Cauca 81% and in Valle del Cauca 65%.
I WILL TAKE YOU TO VOTE
Thousands of people traveled from rural areas, on small, packed caravans of boats, on motorbikes, and others walked for miles to reach polling sites. “I have to confess that during my political life I have never seen so many people doing these things on their own and using different means of transportation to get to their voting destinations,” commented Rafael Mosquera, a former house of representatives’ candidate from Chocó. “[T]he real heroes…are those travelers who took to the rivers and seas in countless boats congesting those ‘highways’ that are the main means of transportation!
“[Y]ou can see the overwhelming joy represented in the multiple caravans that left from Istmina and Quibdò,” Mosquera added: “Today we move from the front lines and from resistance to power!”
In an exclusive interview, Ángela Perlaza Aguiño of the Colombia Renaciente Party told the AmNews that her organization “developed a strategy called YO TE LLEVO A VOTAR (I WILL TAKE YOU TO VOTE) to defeat the abstentionism in our Afro and Indigenous territories. We have activists and leaders who [made sure] that no one was left unable to vote…The strategy was so well received that in the territories, citizens used various means of transportation to mobilize those who needed it, prioritizing the elderly, pregnant women, and people with disabilities.
“#YOTELLEVOAVOTAR contributed to the reduction of fraud and to the defeat of vote buying. It also reminds us that Colombians are known for their SOLIDARITY, today we have won in terms of values, and we know that united we are stronger.”
A very important step forward
With Francia Márquez as Colombia’s new vice president, traditionally marginalized voters are expecting to be represented, and they turned out in droves. “We are going to create a Ministry of Equality,” Marquez promised in a Tweet. “I come from a historically neglected people and region. My goal is to guarantee rights for the excluded and for those in marginalized territories, to guarantee rights to Afro-descendant and indigenous populations.”
During her victory speech on the night the election was won, Márquez thanked Colombia’s voters and, in particular, the women, youth, LGBTQ groups and Black communities for supporting her political trajectory. “To the rural people—to my people, the Afro-descendant, Raizal, and Palenquero community. Brothers and sisters, we have taken a very important step forward. After 214 years, we have achieved a government of the people, a people’s government, a government of…those with calloused hands,” she said. “A government of the common people. A government of the nobodies of Colombia. We are ready, brothers and sisters, to reconcile this nation.
“We are pushing for peace in a determined way, without fear, with love and joy. Let us push for dignity. Let us push for social justice. Let us women eradicate patriarchy in our country. Let’s push for the rights of the diverse LGBTQ+ community.
“Let’s push for the rights of our Mother Earth, of our larger home. Let’s take care of our larger home and take care of biodiversity. Let’s work together to eradicate structural racism.”